Dare County will hold a virtual public meeting to discuss the proposed beach nourishment project for Avon on Wednesday, February 24, at 6:00 p.m. The meeting will serve as an opportunity for Avon property owners to weigh in on the proposed project, (and the corresponding tax increase), before a final decision on whether to move forward is made by county officials.
Dare County recently added a wealth of information on their website that covers the project details, including the proposed cost, timeframe, and estimated tax increase for property owners.
Per information from the county website, interviews with county officials, correspondence with property owners, and other resources, an overview of some of the most frequently asked questions and answers regarding the project are listed below.
Why is an Avon beach nourishment project being considered?
The rate of erosion along the beaches of Avon has accelerated dramatically in the past few years, and particularly for the southern half of the village. The sand dunes along much of the beach in the Kinnakeet Shores area and beyond have been washed away, allowing the ocean to flood N.C. Highway 12 regularly, and make the highway impassable. In the past several years, this has occurred during hurricanes and nor’easters, but also during offshore storms, extreme high tides, and other less-severe weather events.
When overwash in Avon occurs, the flooding impedes first responders from responding to emergencies, sanitation workers from picking up trash, and islanders from performing normal daily tasks. In addition to these safety issues, there has been flooding damage to homes and businesses, which in turn negatively affects the tourism economy.
What does beach nourishment entail?
Beach nourishment is the process of pumping sand onto an eroding shoreline to widen the existing beach. Sources of sand may include a nearby sandbar, a dredged source such as an inlet or waterway, or an offshore borrow site along the ocean floor. (For the Avon project, the sand will come from an offshore borrow source that will be determined by Coastal Planning and Engineering and the county, once plans for the project are finalized.)
The widened shoreline provides increased defense from coastal storms and beach erosion, protecting infrastructure located in the surrounding area. Note that beach nourishment does not entail rebuilding the dunes themselves, however, dunes will likely be replenished through the ebb and flow of the new sand after it is deposited along the shoreline.
How will the beach change after a nourishment project?
The 2017 / 2018 Buxton nourishment project is a good reference point for how the Avon beach may look after the initial beach nourishment project is complete. Initially, the beach will appear unusually wide, but the shape of the beach will naturally transform and adapt as storms roll through the area.
Will beach nourishment be effective in protecting N.C. Highway 12?
There is no way to tell the future, but similar projects in Nags Head and Buxton provide clues as to how effective the overall project will be. After the Buxton project concluded in January of 2018, Hatteras Island was pounded with four consecutive nor’easters in March. An initial survey conducted shortly afterward found that the shoreline – and N.C. Highway 12 – held up well, despite the storms, and despite sand loss due to deteriorating groins at the southern end of the project.
N.C. Highway 12 in northern Buxton has once again become routinely affected by ocean overwash during coastal storms, however, it should be noted that beach nourishment is not a one-time project, and that regular maintenance every five years or so is required. This is why a Buxton Nourishment Maintenance project is currently scheduled for 2022, which includes the restoration of the three Buxton groins that were originally constructed in 1970.
Keep in mind that one of the benefits of beach nourishment is that once a site is an “engineered beach,” or replenished with beach nourishment, it is also eligible for FEMA and other funds, in case all of the sand washes away. In Buxton’s case, additional sand loss was reported after Hurricane Florence in 2018, and Buxton received a $1,557,606.74 grant from the DEQ’s Coastal Storm Damage Mitigation Fund in 2020 to help replenish the beaches.
How were the parameters of an Avon beach nourishment project determined?
In late 2019, the Dare County Board of Commissioners (BOC) agreed to allocate up to $250,000 from the Beach Nourishment Fund to pay for a study to examine the details and costs of initiating a beach nourishment project in Avon. The study was conducted from the summer of 2020 to the end of the year, and outlined the specificis on what the project should entail.
What area of Avon shoreline will undergo beach nourishment?
The proposed project will stretch from Due East Road, (about 3,000 feet north of the Avon Pier), to the southern boundary of Avon village.
How much of Avon will receive beach nourishment?
2.2 out of approximately 3.4 miles of Avon shoreline will undergo beach nourishment, so approximately 64.7% of the village’s oceanfront.
How much sand will be added during the project?
The proposed project will place more than 1 million cubic yards of sand along the Avon beaches.
When will the project occur?
The proposed Avon beach nourishment project is expected to be bid in the fall of 2021. If the bids come in at the projected rates, the project can start in the late spring of 2022.
Exact start times and dates are not yet available because they will be up to the project’s contractor. The contractor will have a window of around April 2022 until the end of October 2022 to complete the project.
How long will the project take?
Once the project begins, it is expected to take about 90 days to be completed, but the timeframe is very dependent on the weather. In fact, the Buxton project was delayed by a few months due to a number of storms that impacted the area in 2017.
How much will the project cost?
The feasibility study by Coastal Science and Engineering – which also performed the Buxton nourishment project – estimates the cost for the Avon beach nourishment project to be between $11 million and $14 million.
What determines the difference between an $11 million project and a $14 million project?
Basically, if the project stands by itself, the estimated cost is $14 million. If the Avon project can be bid with the upcoming 2022 Buxton maintenance project, the estimated cost is around $11.3 million.
Where will the money for the project come from?
Avon property owners will pay approximately 50% of the beach nourishment project cost, and Dare County will pay the other 50%.
Dare County’s portion of the project will be paid for out of the county’s Beach Nourishment Fund, which is funded by proceeds from the county’s 2% occupancy tax.
Why is Avon covering half of the project cost?
In short, because there are no other options.
Dare County and many Avon residents, (who have been working on a potential project for years), have approached legislators, lobbyists and other officials multiple times in an effort to obtain state or other funding for a beach nourishment project in Avon. To date, these efforts have not been successful.
In addition, revenue from the county’s Beach Nourishment Fund can cover half of the project, but is not sufficient to cover the entire cost, and the only way to complete the Avon beach nourishment project is to secure additional funding.
Per the county, tax increases at the proposed rates below are the only way Dare County can generate the extra funding necessary to complete the project in the near future.
Are other local town beach nourishment projects fully funded by Dare County taxes?
None of the other town nourishment projects have been, or will be, fully funded by the county. The average cost paid by each of the towns is 50% of the project cost, with the remaining 50% being covered by Dare County’s beach nourishment fund. This is in line with the Avon proposal.
How much will taxes increase for Avon residents?
Dare County proposes to tax the properties on the oceanside of N.C. Highway 12 from Due East Road to the southern boundary of Avon at a rate of 40 cents per $100 dollars of value, (as this is the area receiving the greatest benefit from the project), and to tax ALL remaining parcels in Avon at a rate of 10 cents per $100 dollars in value.
So, for example, for a parcel valued at $200,000, the 40 cents tax would be $800 per year. For a parcel valued at $200,000, the 10 cents tax would be $200 per year.
How can I find out what my individual tax increase would be?
You can find your current tax year values through the Dare County website, and specifically through the Parcel Data Map which provides tax information for all county parcels such as ownership information, property summaries, flood zones, and tax values.
How long will the tax increase be in place?
Indefinitely. Per Bobby Outten, Dare County Manager, beach nourishment is not a one-time project, and maintenance and re-nourishment must be performed approximately every five years
“Avon needs to provide half the cost, and the Beach Nourishment Fund needs to provide the other half,” said Outten. “We have the money in the fund to put in half, and we will borrow the other half on a five-year note, which the tax from Avon [pays for.] After five years or so, another project is needed, so the tax is indefinite.”
Why will only Avon experience a tax increase?
There are several reasons why only Avon property owners will be subjected to a tax increase. For one thing, a special service district needs to be established within the county in order to raise the tax funds required for the project. Per the North Carolina statute regarding these special service districts, only the community receiving the most benefit from the proposed project or service can be included.
“The service district statute determines how an area should be taxed, like water districts, drainage districts, etc. It gives the community a way to tax itself outside of the overall scheme of the county, in order to provide some sort of service,” said Outten. “The only way you can pay for a project like this is to create a service district, and all of the towns have done it to do these nourishment projects, just as the county did in Buxton…
“You can say that all of Dare County gets benefit from the project because of tax dollars, but what the statue says is that the [service district must entail] whoever gets the most direct benefit, and the benefit is the community where the project occurs.”
The other big factor is precedent, as well as consideration of current and future nourishment projects. As mentioned, when the Buxton beach nourishment project occurred, only Buxton residents were included in the special service district tax, despite the fact that arguably all island residents benefitted, and especially southern Hatteras Island residents who were cut off from the northern Outer Banks when N.C. Highway 12 became impassable.
If a similar project occurs in Rodanthe, Waves, or Salvo in the future, and a new precedent is set for the Avon project that all island residents must pay for nourishment projects, then once again, all island residents would be taxed. This same theory applies on a countywide level as well, where all county residents would have to chip in for nourishment projects, regardless of the specific town or community.
In essence, a precedent has already been set that property owners should only be responsible for paying for nourishment projects in their own village or community, and the precedent should be maintained in order to avoid additional and potentially unrelated tax increases for all county residents in the future.
How can the public weigh in?
You may email your comments or questions at any time between now and Feb. 23 to DareCountyPR@DareNC.com. Please write “Avon Beach Nourishment” in the subject line of your email.
If you would like to speak at the public hearing, you will need to register online before February 24 by clicking here.
When is the meeting and how can I join?
The meeting is at 6:00 p.m. on Feb. 24, 2021.
If you are an Avon property owner who would like to participate in the public meeting on February 24, you will need to register online. To do so, please click here. After registering online, you will receive a response that confirms your registration, and provides information about how to access the virtual meeting.
Is the Avon beach nourishment project definitely occurring?
No final decision has been made on this project. A decision will not be made until after the public meeting, in order to give property owners an opportunity to share their input.